A norm referenced test is a type of test, evaluation, or assessment that provides an estimate of the position of the tested individual in a population, as compared with the trait being measured. Assigning scores for such tests can be described as marking on a curve, grading on a curve, relative grading, bell curving, using grading curves, or curved grading. It is a method of assigning grades to students in such a way that it helps them obtain or approach a pre-specified distribution of those grades having a specific mean and derivation properties like a normal distribution or Gaussian distribution).
The term ‘curve’ refers to the bell curve, a graphical representation of the probability density of the normal distribution, but this method can be used for achieving any desired distribution of the grades, like in a uniform distribution. This estimate is derived from the analysis of test scores and other relevant data from a sample drawn from the population. This type of test can help decide whether the test-taker performed better or worse than other people who took the test, not whether they know either more or less material than is necessary for a given purpose. When the reference population in the study are the peers of the test taker, the term normative assessment is used.
A norm referenced test can be contrasted with criterion referenced test and ipsative test. In a criterion referenced test, the result shows whether or not the people who took the test performed well or poorly on a given task and not how it compares to other people who took the test. An ipsative system is where the test takers are compared to their own previous performance.
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